Get The Party Going On The Dance Floor

Let me tell you, the finger food was a brilliant idea for last Friday night. I had been mentioning it to some people who were also coming to the potluck party, so they also brought simple foods that people could pick up and eat without a lot of effort. By the end of the night, those items (like cookies and cupcakes and deviled eggs) were what was mostly consumed, and the things that required effort to put on a plate and eat (like macaroni and cheese and meatballs) were still mostly untouched. Sometimes, my brilliance scares me. From now on, anytime someone mentions having a potluck at the dance studio, I am always going to bring some sort of finger food. I’m never going back.

Speaking of Friday, being the guinea pigs for the Rumba class turned out to be much more than just showing off. When the class started, Lord Fabulous had Sparkledancer and I pair up and go through the steps so that everyone could see what the final result would look like. After the initial show, he started to break the figure apart and show the two genders how to each do their respective pieces. After he worked with the men to go over the first part, he proceeded to turn them over to me so that I could show them how to do everything while he worked with the women. I was a little shocked at the sudden responsibility, but there were only three of us, so I just stepped through it slowly over and over while giving the counts so that the other two could get things down. After Lord Fabulous got done showing the women their first section, he did the same things with Sparkledancer. She mentioned to me later that she had a much more difficult time showing the ladies what to do, because much of the step doesn’t make sense unless you get to see it with a dance partner.
PumpUpTheJam1  As we got through more sections, one of the men I was working with was really struggling through things. I was having trouble showing the arm motions properly without someone to hang on to, so while Lord Fabulous was working with the women again I called Sparkledancer over to our side of the room and went through things again slowly from the beginning with her. As I did, I tried to mention all the things I could think of that I had made mistakes on the first couple of times I went through the figure, hoping that passing that information on would help these guys learn from my mistakes. Sparkledancer liked the idea of the two of us showing off the step and asked me to come help her with the ladies, but at that point Lord Fabulous decided we had all had enough solo practice time and we should now dance together to music. I tried my best to help out each of the ladies as they rotated around, but I only sort-of knew the women’s steps so I don’t know how successful I was at that. By the end of class, we hadn’t made it all the way through the figure that he had taught us, but we had gotten close. Tomorrow we should be able to get through everything, though a large number of the people who usually attend the class with us won’t be in town to attend.

The coaching lesson that Lord Fabulous gave to Sparkledancer and I on Saturday primarily focused on Tango and Viennese Waltz. We didn’t really do anything groundbreaking in either of those styles – there were some new variations of things in Tango, and a spin in Viennese Waltz that I know I have worked on in the past, but couldn’t quite remember before going over it again. Mostly I got hounded to keep rolling my right shoulder back while PumpUpTheJam2in frame. I don’t know what it is about my right shoulder, but it always seems to be the problem point, and I’m guessing that’s due to all the other work I do with that body part. Lifting weights with your shoulder, you mostly work on pushing upward, rolling forward or rolling out sideways. None of that really rolls it backward, so my shoulders aren’t really trained to stay like that for long periods of time. When I think about it, I can keep it there just fine. The problem comes when I shift focus and stop thinking about that shoulder, which causes it to settle back into a more rolled forward state. So, I’ll keep working on that, but I think it’s going to be a while before it becomes natural for me.

As we finished up the lesson, we started to talk about the upcoming Spring Fling, and how both of us were interested in signing up to do it so that we would have some direction for our coaching lessons going forward. The competition is quite a ways out, since it is in April, but Lord Fabulous was super excited to put us down. We didn’t know they were doing it, but apparently they were running a special for anyone who signed up before the eighth of December to give ten percent off the event. Hearing that sealed the deal for us, and so we both went ahead and signed up for it. As it stands we are planning on doing fifty heats, and we told him we’d like to do at least the ten dance styles we had done for our last competition (Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Rumba, Cha-Cha, Mambo, Bolero, East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing). Beyond that, we gave him free reign to come up with a plan and start working things out. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with, since we’ve never worked on competition material with Lord Fabulous before this point.

This Friday sounds like it may turn out to be an impromptu Dance Kingdom get together at the Land of the Loft. Some weeks ago, Lord Fabulous started asking if anyone was interested in coming in on the day after Thanksgiving, because if no one would be around he wasn’t going to be either. When he found that there was enough interest in having a normal class schedule, he decided to hold regular classes like they would on any other Friday night. One of his friends from the Great Dance Hall by the Lake, Lord Scarry, told him that most everyone from their studio was going to be gone, so Lord Fabulous invited him to come and hang out with us that night and bring along any stragglers that wouldn’t be gone for the holidays and might be interested. Wednesday night we were told that the Great Dance Hall was also going to be closed on Friday night, so any of the people who usually attend the Friday night parties there who haven’t gone out of town for the weekend may be coming to dance with us as well. In my mind it’s kind of exciting – a lot like one of the normal Dance Kingdom parties they throw from time to time, but with less people so it’s easier for us all to mingle rather than stick with PumpUpTheJam3people from our normal circles. Plus, someone once told a bunch of us that Lord Scarry is kind of paranoid, and always thinks that people are talking about him if they happen to look in his direction and are out of earshot. Someone suggested to me that we have some fun with that while he’s around, since we never really get to spend time with him.

There is also a dance field trip available for Saturday night. With so many people that I usually go on these sorts of trips with out of town for the weekend, it sounds like so far it might just be me and a plethora of ladies from our studio going. From what I have been told, it will be a casual social dance at a ballroom studio in the city that is open to all for the evening. In my mind, I am picturing it to be a lot like the Friday night social dances that we have at the Land of the Loft, just with a different crowd. I hope it will be a good way to work off the calories I would have normally burned off by going to Thursday night classes, since those classes were cancelled so that everyone could stay home and eat food.

I hope my legs enjoyed their day off. There’s lots of dancing to be done this weekend, so they’ll need to be in top shape.

Follow The Day And Reach For The Sun

I rearranged my schedule this week so that I could go to the Thursday group classes instead of the normal Tuesday group class that I have been going to in order to work with Hot Tottie. I figured this would be the only real way I would get to learn from him, seeing as how his schedule is always booked otherwise. Plus, it falls on my normal recovery week in my workout schedule, so it makes it much easier to move things around on my calendar to do this.

Honestly, for me this felt like the best day to start taking the Thursday group class. Because next week there is a holiday on LightAndDay1Thursday, this was the last class of the month. They had been doing lower-level Foxtrot on Thursdays, so today I fell in with everyone as they reviewed everything that they had spent the rest of the month working on. I have been through this level Foxtrot class several times before over the last eighteen months, but recently they have been modifying the syllabus for each dance the Dance Kingdom teaches, so it was nice to quickly recap the entire level and see what was different in the syllabus all in one night rather than over the course of an entire month. Time just seemed to fly right by. I’ll be sticking with Thursdays for a while. After all, it is nice to change things up once and a while, just to keep life interesting.

My last Saturday coaching session with Lord Fabulous and Sparkledancer was interesting. We warmed up by going through the things we had been working on in Foxtrot again (lots of Foxtrot this week!), and then we started working on International Rumba. Now,LightAndDay2 this may not seem strange to anyone reading this, but it was the offhand comment that Lord Fabulous made about what we were doing with the Rumba that has stuck with me all this time. He worked with us on the figures that we had been learning in the group class he has been teaching on Friday night, showing us all the pieces of the figure we would be learning the rest of the month. There was nothing too difficult there – the steps were similar to something that I had learned in the past for American Rumba. Somewhere along the line though, he admitted that we were learning these steps so that we could (almost an exact quote) “perfect the steps, and serve as demonstration models for the rest of the class.” So coming up, I guess we will be the guinea pigs that everyone will watch as he teaches the steps.

Sadly, I also found out that the brilliant idea that I had been debating for a unique showcase dance wasn’t actually all that unique, so Sparkledancer and I decided not to go ahead with that plan. It was really exciting to think that you’re the only one who has a great idea – the only one brave enough to pick a lesser-used dance style; and then it is incredibly disappointing to find out that someone besides you came up with the same brilliant idea and signed up for it first. After discussing our options briefly, Sparkledancer and I are now toying with the idea of looking toward the upcoming Spring Fling competition in April, as the next event that we work with Lord Fabulous toward. It’s far enough out in the future that we have plenty of time to work on any number of routines that we want to add to our repertoire, but still close enough that I think it will drive home the pressure for us to continue getting together and practicing everything, knowing that we will be performing the routines in front of people. During our next coming coaching lesson this Saturday we will try to spend a few minutes at the beginning talking with Lord Fabulous about the idea, to start working out a plan for what dance styles we want to compete in, how many heats we want to sign up for, and to get him to start thinking about building the routines for us.

At our Friday night dance this week Lord Fabulous has told us that we are going to have some kind of potluck to celebrate the holiday that is a week from now. We have done these a few times in the past, and I always brought a simple pie of some kind in the past, because I am not very skilled at culinary adventures, and also because I figure that everyone likes pie. At the end of each of our past potlucks, it always seemed like I would be bringing the entire pie home with me, save for maybe one or two small slices that I would goad people into eating. From those past experiences, I have learned a couple of lessons: 1) Never make something that I could not bring home in its entirety and finish off before it goes bad, because there’s always the chance that I could be bringing it home in its entirety. 2) Always bring finger food. This is a dance party, and people will be dancing all night. They never really stop to do complicated tasks to eat food (such as cut a slice of pie and put it on a plate). So my brilliant idea is to make (or buy) some kind of finger food. That way if someone dances by the table where the foods are laid out, they could do a quick spot turn and grab a cookie or something as they twirl by without stopping the dancing fun.

Who brought the random fish?
Who are the weirdos who brought a random fish and a t-bone?

Can you picture it? Finger food is such a good idea, and I’m sure I’m not the only one to ever come to this realization, but it makes me feel like a genius now that I have this plan. I’ll let you know if it actually works or not.

Had The Guts, Got The Glory

Dinner was much more relaxed than lunch, and I actually got to eat some real food. It was also really nice to sit for a while in non-dance shoes, giving my toes some room to stretch out for a while. Being a fancy hotel, dinner was multi-course and served by staff. When dessert was being served, they made an announcement for all the people participating in the evening dances to go get ready. Dessert turned out to be some kind of apple-thingy (I’m not very good with food names), a white-chocolate stick and some ice cream. Sensing a dilemma, I ate the ice cream beforehand so that I wouldn’t come back to a melted mess, and told the others at the table where I was sitting to protect the plate so that the staff wouldn’t come back and collect it before I had a chance to eat the rest.

I headed back to the dressing room to change back into my dance shoes. My dance partner met me out in the hallway. We talked for a while, stretched a bit, and did some half-hearted practice steps on the carpet. For some reason, this was the most nerve-wracking part of the day. This championship round would theoretically be shorter than the last one I did, but for some reason it made me more nervous than anything else I had done that day. They got us all to wander to the back of the ballroom and hide amongst the curtains behind the stage where the judge and emcee were sitting. Of all the dancers participating in this championship round, there was one other pair of amateurs with us; everyone else was Pro-Am. As the four of us stood there listening to the Pros making jokes back and forth, we looked at each other, and I made some nervous quip about wondering how I got talked into doing this. The other amateurs I had met before, having attended many of the same parties thrown at various locations in the Dance Kingdom. They have both been studying dancing for many years, and at one point they were even students of Sir Steven back when he taught at the Great Eye1Dance Hall. Of all the people in this round, Sparkledancer and I were the only true bronze-level students, so we were seriously outgunned. As the announcer started calling each set of names and the pair of competitors emerged one at a time from behind the curtains to the cheering of the crowd, I asked my dance partner if she wanted to split and each of us exit around opposite sides of the curtain, of if we should both exit out the same side (every couple who had gone before us had done it differently). She opted for both of us going out the same side. As our names were called, I took her hand and straightened my spine, and led her out into the bright lights shining down on the dance floor.

Things went well during this competition round. They had dimmed the lights in the outer section of the room and everyone that had been eating dinner had pulled their chairs up at the very edge of the dance floor. With people sitting so close, it was much easier to make faces at people as I passed, but I don’t think anyone saw what I was doing. Just like the heats that we had run earlier in the day, the Foxtrot felt really strong to me, followed by Tango then Waltz, with Viennese Waltz feeling the least stable. Part of that was due to one of the other dancers clipping my foot as I started doing reverse rotations down one of the long walls. I managed to keep on time, but I couldn’t get my footwork back in the correct configuration until I made it to the other corner and put in some cantor turns. There were a lot more couples doing that Viennese Waltz than in any of the heats that I had done earlier, so it was bound to be slightly more dangerous. Other than that foot incident, I didn’t run into anyone for that entire championship round, which I mark down as a win in my book.

It was nice that my dance partner and I received thunderous applause when we first entered the floor, even though I think everyone in the audience knew there was no real chance for us to place highly against all the other competitors in this round. Despite that, it was actually a fun championship round to do. As I’ve said, the smooth-style dances are not my forte, but to actually compete in a round like that and feel semi-competent at the same time shows that maybe in some small way I have been improving. After the last song ended and I spun Sparkledancer out, we stood as people clapped for a bit and then everyone headed off the floor. With that out of the way, I could catch my breath and relax the rest of the night. There were bigger and better things to look forward to from this point forward, none of which involved me doing any dancing.

As we settled in to finish the dessert that we had abandoned earlier, our first entertainment of the night took the stage. At the Great Dance Hall they had recently brought on a new Dance Lord, and he was performing some sort of contemporary dance number solo for everyone. Based on the way the ladies had been gossiping about this young man and his physique all day, we’ll call him Hot Tottie. His dance number was a sight to behold. He would leap about, getting an impressive amount of height with each and every jump. He would bend and swivel his body in ways that I don’t know if I could ever do enough yoga to accomplish myself. On top of that, he was just a really nice guy, which made watching him dance even more fun. I had gotten to talk to him a couple of times during the day, and there was even a time earlier  when my dance partner and I were standing together in the ballroom and he came over to tell us that we were a lot of fun to watch out on the floor. Seeing him perform solo made that compliment resound even more.

Even though there was all that leaping, the song he was dancing to was not "I Believe I Can Fly"
Even though there was all that leaping, the song he was dancing to was not “I Believe I Can Fly”

When Hot Tottie finished up and left all the ladies in the room swooning as he left the floor, it was time for the five-dance International Latin exhibition. The two main male Lords from the Great Dance Hall, Lord Bradley and Tall Steven, were performing for this round, but it was really Tall Steven’s professional dance partner (rumor has it that she’s also his wife) that took over the floor. This girl had been the deck captain for this competition and the Spring Fling, making sure that everyone was in order, keeping things in line, checking everyone off and sternly ushering people on and off the floor as necessary. I’ve met her several times, and this serious side of her is what I usually see when I interact to her. But, when she dons a sparkly outfit and gets out under the spotlight to dance, it’s like she transforms into a whole different person. Because of that, we’ll refer to her as Arcee. Arcee Eye3really took the floor by storm, so much so that the other couple on the floor, and many times even her dance partner, were lost as people were transfixed by her presence. Every shimmy she did in the Samba, every kick in the Jive, and every dramatic stomp during the Pasodoble were all designed to keep attention focused on just this girl. And there was good reason to watch her – she looked like she was having a blast while dancing. I really hope that someday people will want to watch me dance and have fun like that. Maybe I should start studying what she does and learn a thing or two from it.

After that it was time for the American Smooth four-dance exhibition. The Lords and Lady of our little corner of the city were all dancing in this, Sir Steven paired with Lady Q and Lord Fabulous dancing with a Lady who originates from another studio. I have to say that this, far and away was probably the most interesting thing I saw all night. I know that Sir Steven is an excellent dancer, since obviously I am still paying to learn things from him. I have seen him occasionally do exhibition pieces with various people during my time in the Dance Kingdom. I’ve also seen him doing many heats with his various students in the competitions I have been part of. This was the first time I had ever seen him do something where he was dancing things competitively with Eye4someone who can dance at his level, like Lady Q. He took ownership of that floor during this event, much like Arcee did during the last exhibition (and Tall Steven and Arcee were performing again in this exhibition as well). It was easy to see why he is the head instructor at the Land of the Loft. He outshone Lady Q, even though they were dancing together, and he never let anyone get too close to him without keeping them in line. There were even a couple of times when he even struck people who dared enter his dance bubble as he would move his arms, a strike that never fazed him but caused whomever was struck to look over at him with fear in their eyes. Of all the other competitors on the floor though, it was Lord Fabulous I felt the worst for. Having spent so much time around Lord Fabulous, I know that he is a very good dancer in his own right, but he kind of got lost in the crowd, and never really did anything to draw attention to what he was doing. Granted, that might have also been because he and his partner were so much shorter than everyone else on the floor, so it was easy to lose them…

Eye5
This is an actual photo taken during their performance, I swear.

As the Lords and Ladies of the Dance Kingdom filed off the floor when their round was complete, it was time for the Princess and Hellmanns to perform. They did two numbers together – one that was slow and dramatic, and one that was quick and fun. I remember thinking while watching them together that it is really impressive to see how they can move so in sync with each other, even though they hadn’t spent much time practicing together before this performance. In order to do what I had done during this event, I had to schedule so much time week after week to practice with Sparkledancer, to make sure that we not only knew our steps, but knew what it felt like to do those steps with the other person on the floor with me. It’s amazing to think that these two can dance like that with each other in these complicated routines without going through that level of practice. Is that what it means to truly be a professional? To know what you are doing so well that you can perform with someone else without much rehearsal time beforehand? How long does it take to achieve that level? That’s what I kept thinking while they danced.

With the exhibitions finished, it was time for the award ceremonies. Because the score sheets had not been fully tabulated yet, they spent the time that they had scheduled to hand out the scores to instead take pictures of the entire cast of competitor and their instructors. We each got called up, once studio at a time; everyone got to stand in front of the stage with the Princess and Hellmanns and their instructor for the photographer they had hired to take some pictures. I’m not sure if we’ll ever get to see those pictures, but I hope they turn out well for whatever they get used for in the future. My dance partner and I went up there with both Sir Steven and Lady Q, since they had both worked with us on routines for this competition. When those pictures were finished, they announced the championship round winners. As expected, in both the championship rounds I participated in, Sparkledancer and I came in last place. Looking back on the results though, if you had taken the list of entrants and put their names in Excel, and then sorted the list with Pro-Am couples first and Amateur couples second, and then did a secondary sort based on how long each student had been taking lessons, you would have gotten the exact same results as the order we lined up in for placement of those championship rounds. I don’t feel bad about it though, I was glad just to be a part of the event. It gives me something to work toward next time, if I decide to do any championship rounds like these.

Of all the awards handed out that night, the most surprising one that they gave out was for the Best Newcomer. Lord Fabulous had a student we call Gable whom he had somehow convinced to be part of this event. By the day of the competition, she had only been taking lessons with him for about two months. It was nice to see someone from the Land of the Loft get recognized like that. At the end of the night, as everyone was packing up to leave, I was talking with Sir Steven and Lord Fabulous about the awards handed out, and they were scheming about how to take home the Best Studio award next time; they were both sad that they hadn’t gotten it this time, even though the Land of the Loft had the most students participating in the competition (their plan to get the award involved some complicated scheme to take out Tall Steven so that he wouldn’t be able to stand in their way).

And that’s that! All in all, it was a great day, and it really made me look back on how far I’ve come, and how far I still need to go to get to where I would like to be. With rumors floating around about the next competition in May, we’ll see if I can bring my skills up yet another level before then!

Hooray for us!
Hooray for us!

Let’s Have Some Fun, This Beat Is Sick

This week has been productive. My dance partner and I have continued working with Sir Steven to finalize our routines for September. Saturday we put together our West Coast Swing and Bolero routines and added aLoveGames1 few more pieces to the East Coast Swing routine. With those two completed, all that’s left is to finish up East Coast Swing, and all the routines Sparkledancer and I will be doing together are done. It’s kind of funny that East Coast Swing is the last one to get completed. When we originally started working on things after the Spring Fling, the steps for East Coast Swing were the first things we started to learn, yet it’s the last dance we actually will be finishing. I am hoping that by the end of this coming weekend, we will have all those routines completed so that all we have to do is review them for the next month before actually performing.

This coming Saturday, right after finishing up our lesson with Sir Steven, we also scheduled a time to work with Lady Q to start learning the alternate routines that I will be dancing with her, and Sparkledancer will be dancing with Sir Steven. So there’s a good chance I could have a lot of things to practice after this weekend is all over. Some nights, as I think about what I’m supposed to be working on, or when I get to the studio early to work on things with Sparkledancer, it’s hard to decide what needs the most work in the short amount of time available each day. I’m sure some of you are thinking “Wow, this guy should just suck it up; it’s only 15 different routines. There should be no problem.” Well, I will try. Just for you. This feels like a lot of routines to perfect in a short amount of time. Maybe I will look back on this in the future after I have been doing it a few more years and think about how easy I have it now. Today when I look at it though, it feels a bit overwhelming. This is one of those moments when I just need to remember to do my best and forget the rest. I have no illusions that it’s all going to be perfect. If I can do above average though, I will feel like a champion.

There’s been a little bit of dramatic excitement brewing about the Land Of The Loft lately. For the upcoming competition, both Young Dave and The Heartbreak Kid have been trying to find an alternate partner to do half their heats with. This week, it seems they have both set their sights on the same girl: Yessie. They both have been trying really hard to vie for her attention this week, and both have asked her if she was interested in participating in the competition with them. As we stood outside after Tuesday dance fitness class talking in the parking lot, the ladies from the studio who I normally associate with were talking about how Yessie doesn’t really talk to anyone who isn’t male, so none of them had been able to get any information from her about what she’s going to do. Just as they were talking about her, Yessie and The Heartbreak Kid came out of the building. Since I wasn’t female, I figured that if they all wanted to know what she was going to do, I would have to be the one to ask. I called both of them over to join us in our little parking lot circle and asked her about the rumor that she was going to compete with us. She laughed and said that Lord Fabulous told her that, in order to dance with the two boys, she would also have to sign up to do some heats of her own. She works as a waitress at some restaurant, so she didn’t think she could come up with the money to sign up for the competition unless her parents would be nice enough to give it to her. She was hopeful, but didn’t want to make any promises to the gentlemen before discussing it with her parents.

As she discussed this with me, Young Dave also came out of the building. When he saw us all standing there, he saddled over and tried to awkwardly jump into our conversations, but everyone sort of just stopped talking once he showed up. You could see the look on the face of The Heartbreak Kid – if he had had laser eyes like Superman, I think Young Dave might have had his hair set on fire. There is a rivalry brewing that seems to be becoming pretty apparent. During the dance fitness class, every time there was a break when they would start the song over, Young Dave would move over to stand near Yessie again. LoveGames2Here in the circle where we were talking, when Young Dave joined the crowd, The Heartbreak Kid (who was already standing next to Yessie) inched over closer to her. I got the feeling that if the rest of us hadn’t been standing there, the two boys would have started fighting each other to win her favor and secure their spot as the person she would choose to compete with. Ah, the crazy things that young college girls make young men do with their love games…

(Note: I’m not that old. I totally understand. Five years ago, I probably would do similar things if I were in this position. Now that I’m 30 though, I am totally more refined.)